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City of Rochester Communications Bureau

If I had to name the top two projects at City Hall that get officials excited, they would be Midtown and filling in the Inner Loop.

The mayor frequently talks about how downtown is designed for a fast exit. He wants you to stick around for a while. The Inner Loop is underutilized, cuts off neighborhoods and is a “noose around the neck of downtown.” Filling in the eastern portion of the Inner Loop would free up about 9 acres of land for development and save the city future maintenance costs.

Senator Chuck Schumer has gone to bat to get the city federal TIGER funds. When Rochester was passed over for a $15 million grant last year, Schumer said he’d help the city improve its application. In February, city council authorized nearly $2 million in design work to bolster the 2012 TIGER funding application.

The TIGER application was due in March. The city never submitted it. Instead it only submitted an application for funding for the $26 million intermodal station. The city says the intermodal station is further along in design and has crucial state support. Besides, the city can’t expect to get two big projects funded in the same round.

Funding is not a sure thing for either project. Putting off the Inner Loop application is a risk construction could be delayed a year or more. It will likely not coincide with the marina dig at the port. The fill from the marina was to be used to fill the Inner Loop.

What’s surprising about this development is the city had not touted the intermodal station much until a couple weeks ago when a design was unveiled. It’s not a project anyone talks about with enthusiasm, not even the mayor. The Trailways bus owner said he doesn’t think the station will be built in his lifetime.

There’s only one person who is a champion of the intermodal station: Louise Slaughter. She has always wanted a true intermodal station, one that combined all of the city’s buses and trains in one spot. Many believe Slaughter pressured Bob Duffy to drop his support of Renaissance Square, which didn’t not align with her vision. Several years later, RGRTA is building its own bus station, anyway.

The city says it didn’t put the intermodal station ahead of the Inner Loop at Slaughter’s urging. A mid-afternoon email to her spokesperson wasn’t immediately returned. It’s possible there’s nothing more to this sudden switcheroo than pure strategy to maximize federal dollars. I suspect that’s not the whole story.

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In other news, 90 percent of Chicago teachers authorized a strike. This gives them more leverage at the negotiating table. It’s a rather astounding development, given it’s Jean-Claude Brizard’s first year in Chicago. You may recall, an overwhelming majority of Rochester teachers voted no confidence in his leadership in a union ballot, results backed up by a Center for Governmental Research survey.

12 Responses to The Switcheroo

  1. June 11, 2012 at 11:33 pm RaChaCha responds:

    The intermodal station and the Inner Loop project are both important, but the station is more so. It’s about providing real transportation choices and functional facilities — where today options and facilities are way sub-par at best and dysfunctional at worst. The current setup with trailers for intercity bus set up right across the street from the Amtrak station is ridiculous and outrageous, and the fact that it was allowed to happen is an indictment on community leadership. They don’t give a damn — most of them have never been on a bus since grade school, except for a photo-op.

    Louise Slaughter, God bless her, has a solid & sensible policy head on her shoulders — she gets it, in a community where it often seems few other elected officials do. That was never more in evidence than the Renaissance Square situation — a Frankenstein Monster project conceived & cobbled together out of spare parts by some Republican evil geniuses and unleashed on City government with no one seeming to know quite how to bring it to heel. Thank goodness Louise didn’t give up the fight against Ren Square and roll over like many other electeds.

  2. June 12, 2012 at 4:55 am Peggy responds:

    God bless her? Solid & sensible? She’s a crotchety old woman and she needs to retire and give someone with some more modern thinking a chance to make a real difference and listen to what the taxpayers want and not what big money corporations want.

  3. June 12, 2012 at 7:13 am lynn e responds:

    Buses and trains are neglected in the US. When the US puts more interest in them,the stations will get better too. I have come to depend on the train more for traveling around NY state. Its slow but a gem.

    • re the current plan: nuts, I wanted to see how they were going to bend the tracks down over or under the Loop to get them along side the new RGRTA bus depot and then back up over the river to merge into the main line above the x-way.

      I know, they could have put the bus depot up with the rail station. What a pleasant experience that would have been for Amtrak passengers.

  4. June 12, 2012 at 7:24 am RaChaCha responds:

    It’s slow but a gem.

    Indeed. Last year when commuting to Rochester to work on the special election for mayor, I frequently took the morning train from Buffalo. And because of schedules, I usually had to take an intercity bus home. Guess which I enjoyed more — by a factor of like 10–?

  5. Generalization and simplification is the killer of rational thought, so here it goes:

    Rochester’s experience with large-scale development projects have been a natural disaster.

    Incomepent redevelopement decisions made since the post-WWII era, like the Inner Loop, isolated mega-block highrise office building complexes w/o pedestrian friendly lower level facades and access, long walled-off complexes like the Convention Center leaving the impression that pedestrains are not welcomed sharers of the downtown experience, have left the region’s core with a patchwork quilt of egocentric pet projects and bad urban design biases which have pretty much destroyed the future viability of reasonable economic correction of previously boloxed(SP?) attempts at urban renewal, especially in downtown.

    This recent switcheroo is only one example of a long list of “fake right, go left” redevelopment decisions that drive private property developers crazy.

    I’ll tell you one thing: if someone in our household out in Penfield wants to take a bus or train to Colorado, they’ll be driven directly to the “intermodal station” north of the Loop and dropped-off just before departure, not to the new RGRTA quanset hut to take a shuttle to get up there.

  6. June 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm Mittens responds:

    So a project to build a new building where people can ride a 40 year old outdated, slow and inconvenient train is more important than a project to quite possibly revive the urban vibrancy of center city? Ok…

    • The Inner Loop project should be done to fix a piece of urban infrastructure that’s bad, but dysfunctional and disgraceful is the state of intercity bus and rail facilities in Rochester — making it a challenge for locals to do intercity trips, and making a horrible first impression on visitors. That’s why those facilities should have priority for scarce dollars. Also, the fact that — largely, thanks to Louise Slaughter — there are rail upgrade projects underway across the state that will make it possible for Amtrak to run more trains as well as a fighting chance to get them running more or less on schedule. With those projects coming on line in the next few years, it’s crucial to have better facilities in place.

    • Mittens: the Inner Loop fill-in project is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create viable raw land with good location in a major NY downtown city. Even a novice real estate investor knows the S.E. corridor has always been golden in Rochester’s development history.

      It was only when the Loop was put in did the inner part of the S.E. corridor suffered (University/S. & N. Union, lower Monroe Ave, inner East Main). and it was left behind in the East Ave. Pres. District and N.O.T.A. revivals.

      There’s probably some reason for the switch that we’re not being told.

  7. June 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm Eduardo Ricardo responds:

    The only thing I commend about Louise Slaughter is her support of rail. Too bad she is being sacrificed. Us fellow senior citizens love her. She’s got more energy and stamina than a lot of 20 and 30 somethings.

    Go! Go! Go!

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